The Luck Of The Irish

Some Time In New York City - John Lennon/Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band/Elephants MemoryWritten by: Lennon-Ono
Recorded: 13 February - 8 March 1972
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 15 September 1972 (UK), 12 June 1972 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar
Adam Ippolito: piano, organ
Gary Van Scyoc: bass guitar
Stan Bronstein: flute
Richard Frank Jr: drums, percussion
Jim Keltner: drums

Available on:
Some Time In New York City
John Lennon Anthology

The Luck Of The Irish was one of two songs on Some Time In New York City written in support of the republican movement in Northern Ireland, a cause which John Lennon felt affinity with in the early 1970s.

The Luck of the Irish - Sometime In New York City (Remastered)

Lennon wrote Sunday Bloody Sunday in response to the British Army massacre of 30 January 1972. The Luck Of The Irish predated the event, and was inspired by a protest march in London that Lennon attended in August 1971. He began writing the song three months after.

I'm a quarter Irish or half Irish or something, and long, long before the trouble started, I told Yoko that's where we're going to retire, and I took her to Ireland. We went around Ireland a bit and we stayed in Ireland and we had a sort of second honeymoon there. So I was completely involved in Ireland.
John Lennon, 1971

Lennon recorded a demo of The Luck Of The Irish on 12 November 1971, along with another Some Time In New York City song, Attica State. The 20-minute demo tape became part of a film, also titled The Luck Of The Irish, directed by John Reilly and financed by Joko Productions. The film was eventually given a general release in 1975 as The Irish Tapes.

Reilly captured black-and-white footage of Lennon and Ono performing the song. Even at this early stage, it was largely the same as the studio version, although some of the lyrics and chords were yet to be finalised.

Lennon performed The Luck Of The Irish on 10 December 1971 at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at a fundraiser for John Sinclair. The concert was filmed but never released. However, the performances of The Luck Of The Irish and John Sinclair were both included on the John Lennon Anthology box set in 1998 and on the 2004 album Acoustic.

A brief version of The Luck Of The Irish was performed on The David Frost Show on 16 December, and in full in January 1972 on The Mike Douglas Show. In the former Lennon was evidently still working on the lyrics, as "the kids, the church and the IRA" were all held culpable. He also changed the word 'bastards' to 'bummers', doubtless to to avoid the ire of audiences - something of an ironic move given the song's subject matter.

The final live performance of the show took place on 5 February 1972. Lennon took part in a protest outside the New York offices of BOAC, the British national airline, in response to the Bloody Sunday massacre.

While Lennon's recounting of the Irish republican struggle was heartfelt and direct if a little simplistic, the song is let down by Ono's clichéd contributions, with mentions of shamrocks, rainbows and leprechauns, and a hope for the "world [to] be one big Blarney stone".

The Luck Of The Irish, coupled with Attica State, was considered for the lead single from Some Time In New York City, and was given the release number Apple 1846 in the US. Eventually, however, it was replaced with Woman Is The Nigger Of The World, the only single to be issued from the album.

13 responses on “The Luck Of The Irish

  1. Tom Doyle

    i rehersed the song with him at his bank street apt and receivingthe lyrics since i am of Irish decent sent chlls through me and I was proud to perform it with him the night at Ann arbor on 12 string guitar

    1. Mike

      Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s been years and no one has replied to this comment! (though I do agree with all the comments about Yoko’s lyrics about “blarney stones” and “leprechauns”!

      Tom Doyle, thank you so much for sharing that memory, wherever you are! If you see this, I’d love to hear more about your experience, I mean, I’ve got a thousand questions! i suppose you played with David Peel’s band? Great work at that concert, man, it’s one of my favorites, and I think those songs are much maligned. The definitive versions of “Luck of the Irish” and “John Sinclair” were the ones you played on, so thanks, man, seriously. What a concert.

  2. James

    It’s really hard to write a good Irish nationalist song. Because one stanza of a Behan tune will destroy three chorus’ of this song. It really sucks because this song is built on a very good couplet
    “If you had the luck of the irish you’d cry and wish you was dead
    If you had the luck of the irish you’d wish you was english instead”
    And then it turns into a lucky charms box.

  3. Martin

    Hi Joe,

    I intended to comment on McCartney’s ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ but your page on that one is blank as yet, so I came here. I hope you don’t mind. It is relevant.

    It’s a mystery to me why ‘Give Ireland Back..’, released the previous February and only a few weeks after Bloody Sunday, attracts derision, often from the same people who will fall over themselves to excuse Lennon for The Luck of the Irish. I don’t include you in that remark, of course; but I think to call The Luck of the Irish ‘a little simplistic’ is quite kind of you ūüėČ – even neglecting Ono’s risible contributions!

    As James says, it starts ok, but then we get a bunch of bathetic folk-song clich√©s, an adolescent level of political awareness and a train wreck of rhyme and meter: Ireland is a ‘land full of beauty and wonder’ , it is ‘raped by the British brigANDS!’ (ouch) who – of course – ‘ kill with God on their side’, whilst Irish history is ‘death and glory’ (yeah, yeah) celebrated by ‘the poets of auld Eireland’ (oh puhlease!). Oh, and the British ‘commit genocide-aye-ide’. What??? I mean come on, if you’re going to make such a crackingly bizarre assertion then at least do it with dignity, if not real commitment! On top of this the tune is totally uninspired – bog-standard pub-folk boiler-plate recycled from a hundred similar plodding ditties and delivered in an enervated, dreary performance that (let’s call it like it is) was frankly embarrassing to watch (and I’m still excluding Ono).

    Then there’s McCartney’s ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’. Well, it’s a rush-job put together on the hoof, a throwaway, a bit of a scramble recorded in an afternoon. Yeats or Behan it ain’t! But by god it’s got more balls and fire and real-world point than Lennon’s insipid shanty that took him 3 weeks to record!

    Tell me how would you like it
    If on your way to work
    You were stopped by Irish soldiers?
    Would you lie down, do nothing?
    Would you give in, or go berserk?

    Great Britain and all her people
    Say all people must be free;
    And meanwhile back in Ireland
    There’s a man who looks like me;
    And he dreams of god and country
    And he’s feeling really bad;
    And he’s sitting in a prison.
    Should he lie down? do nothing?
    Should he give in? or go mad?

    Give Ireland back to the Irish
    Don’t make them have to take it away!
    Give Ireland back to the Irish
    Make Ireland Irish today!

    And Macca managed at least a half-decent tune to go with it. Doggett described it as ‘inappropriately chirpy’. I’d describe it as having zest and bite without a trace of mawkishness or self-consciousness.

    Was it just luck and commercial timing that meant that this song was a top-20 UK hit (in spite of zero airplay because of being banned), number 1 in Ireland and in Spain, and almost made the Billboard top 20 in the US, while Lennon’s made little impact anywhere despite multiple TV and public demo performances in America and release on the pretty dire ‘Sometime in NYC’ LP? I don’t think so .

    Thanks for a great site.

    1. Martin

      Yes, I’ve seen this point of view expressed a few times. But I would say the political, legal, social and historical status of the two cases is completely different, now and 40 years ago. And even if it were not, 40 years makes a difference to a person too, and to the larger world we have to live in. It is entirely legal in modern Britain to change one’s mind, you know. I think if we all inspect our beliefs we will find that 40 years of experience has made a big difference to the way we think about many things. That doesn’t necessarily mean we were not conscientious before, as we are conscientious now. If we are all to be judged and sneered at for supposedly inconsistent ideas espoused 40 years ago I dare say we are all in for a lot of humiliation! But I digress!! Sorry, Joe.

  4. Colin

    Sad to say that the first poster in this thread, Tommy Doyle, passed away this morning at age 65 in the Staten Island University Hospital. He will be very missed by those who ever knew him and had the chance to jam with him. “Luck Of The Irish” was one of his favorite John Lennon songs.

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